How Social Reputation Networks Interact with Competition in Anonymous Online Trading: An Experimental Study
31 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2008
Date Written: April 2008
Many Internet markets rely on "feedback systems", essentially social networks of reputation, to facilitate trust and trustworthiness in anonymous transactions. Market competition creates incentives that arguably may enhance or curb the effectiveness of these systems. We investigate how different forms of market competition and social reputation networks interact in a series of laboratory online markets, where sellers face a moral hazard. We find that competition in strangers networks (where market encounters are one-shot) most frequently enhances trust and trustworthiness, and always increases total gains-from-trade. One reason is that information about reputation trumps pricing in the sense that traders usually do not conduct business with someone having a bad reputation not even for a substantial price discount. We also find that a reliable reputation network can largely reduce the advantage of partners networks (where a buyer and a seller can maintain repeated exchange with each other) in promoting trust and trustworthiness if the market is sufficiently competitive. We conclude that, overall, competitive online markets have more effective social reputation networks.
Keywords: reputation systems, e-commerce, internet markets, trust
JEL Classification: D44, L14
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